Welcome to the dark side and the watchful eye of Lord Recluse, leader of the criminal organization Arachnos. It’s almost time to awaken to the villain inside in the upcoming expansion to the City of Heroes universe, City of Villains. Though the term expansion is used loosely as the game, itself, is described by the leading developers, Jack Emmert and David Cook, as a completely new and different experience from the release of the original MMO. Development goals for this new iteration in Paragon City were simple: Allow players to play the super-villains they have been lusting after since the original CoH release, build an engaging and interesting PvP element into the experience and allow heroes and villains alike to build their own bases – Lairs of Infamy or Halls of Justice. Hearing those goals alone are enough to motivate the devil on my shoulder, how about you?

The player villain starts out as an ex-con who has been busted out of the Ziggurat (Paragon City’s own school of hard knocks) and transplanted onto Rogue Isle, a cluster of islands off of the coast of Bermuda. From a gameplay perspective, this Isle of villainy is planned to have seven PvE zones and four PvP zones. Though recognized by the UN as a sovereign nation, the ruler of Rogue Isle is none other than Lord Recluse himself. Knowing full well that heroes across the world would want to do everything in their power to squelch his efforts by “cleaning” out the Isle, it was a very cunning move on his part to join the UN. In order to build their rep and influence coffers, player villains do contract work and other assorted malevolence. Some of the missions include planting explosives as well as good old fashioned bank robbing. Not only does the player’s budding denizen have to face off against the standard fare of law enforcement element, but also familiar NPC heroes from the original game, including Statesman. Villain archetypes and power sets will be unique as well – Some of the new archetype names include Brute, Mastermind, Destroyer, and Stalker. Of course, it wouldn’t be City of Villains without a mind blowing costume creator and the artists at Cryptic have worked very hard in building some uniquely evil pieces for players to enjoy. Some examples of this include disfigured faces, monstrous features, shoulder and chest mounted skulls, and the always inviting spikes.

Player versus player combat has definitely been designed with an emphasis on contesting over something (a relic of power housed in the heart of a supergroup’s base, for example) as opposed to just plain smack down, giving players a purpose when they PvP. One of the ultimate PvP design goals the dev team has set out to achieve has been to have full scale supergroup versus supergroup battles. I had a chance to partake in few 5 on 5 matches on the E3 show floor and I had a ton of fun, playing a good guy (invulnerability/super strength tanker) and bad guy (destroyer with radiation and sonic powers). It’s encouraging to see that the developers focus on fast paced fun is still a big part of the game. The bottom line is: who can pass up the dynamics of matches against player controlled heroes or villains? I don’t believe anyone in the community would. Even after my brief experience with the game on the show floor, I’m chomping at the bit to hit the beta version.

Base-building will be another much anticipated feature of City of Villains and from what was shown at E3, only your imagination and influence will limit what your supergroup can obtain and customize with regards to a super-powered headquarters. The base editor was very intuitive and allowed for both aesthetics – many looks and feels, from metallic to mystical – and function such as base defenses. Those base defenses will be very important when players engage in raids against each other’s headquarters, as previously mentioned.

With beta planned for the summertime (around July) and release on target, thus far, for the fall, City of Villains is looking to be an exciting twist in the City of Heroes universe. Based on what I have seen, the developers have made a focused effort to create a whole new experience by giving players what they really want: the ability to play a supervillain complete with the evil regalia, the intensity of superpowered PvP and tools to create their own superpowered bases. I, along with the rest of the community, can’t wait to get our hands on this upcoming title. Heroes are fun in their own right, but in City of Villains it’s going to be so good to be bad.

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